June 17 (UPI) -- Golfer Jon Rahm, who was forced to withdraw from a tournament he led through three rounds two weeks ago due to a positive COVID-19 test, is the favorite to win this week's U.S. Open in San Diego.
The No. 3 player in the Official World Golf Ranking returns to the course for the third major tournament of the season Thursday through Sunday at Torrey Pines Golf Course.
The 2021 U.S. Open airs on the Golf Channel and NBC.
"I'm happy to be here and comfortable," Rahm told reporters Tuesday. "I've played well here in the past and hopefully I can keep it going."
Rahm was 18-under par and led the field at the Memorial Tournament by six strokes when he exited the tournament on June 5. He skipped last week's Palmetto Championship at Congaree and returned two negative results from COVID-19 tests Thursday and Friday for clearance to play.
"I was a little bit scared, because even though I was fine, I didn't want to give the virus to anybody in my house," Rahm said.
"I think the hardest part was for 10 days not being able to spend any time with my young son."
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and defending champion Bryson DeChambeau are among the other players expected to contend for the Claret Jug. They'll compete for a $2.25 million first-place prize on the 7,698-yard course, the third longest in the history of major tournaments.
The top 60 scores and ties from the 156-player field will advance to the third round. Rahm said the ideal weather conditions predicted should allow players to feel the speed of the course, which features contoured, firm greens and thick roughs.
Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele are among the other favorites to win this weekend at Torrey Pines. Koepka won the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2018. McIlroy won in 2011. Johnson won in 2016.
"I'm getting more comfortable on the greens," DeChambeau told reporters Tuesday. "If I can stay comfortable, I'll hopefully contend this week."
Groups, notable tee times
Veteran golfer Phil Mickelson sits outside the Top 10 betting favorites, despite his win at last month's PGA Championship.
"I started getting ready for this tournament Monday [June 7]," the San Diego native told reporters Monday. "It's a unique opportunity because I've never won a U.S. Open, and it's in my back yard. I've had a chance to prepare properly, and I want to put in the work."
The six-time major winner will tee off with Schauffele and Max Homa at 10:51 a.m. EDT Thursday on No. 10 at Torrey Pines.
Rahm is grouped with Marc Leishman and Patrick Reid for the first two rounds. They will start the first round at 4:36 p.m. from tee No. 10.
Johnson, McIlroy and Justin Rose tee off at 4:36 p.m. on No. 1. DeChambeau, 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and Tyler Strafaci start the tournament at 4:14 p.m. on No. 1.
"The greens are a little bit firmer," Koepka told reporters Tuesday. "You have to be a good ball striker and putter around here. It will be a good test."
How to watch (times are EDT)
Who: 156-player PGA Tour field
What: 2021 U.S. Open
When: Thursday through Sunday
Where: Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego
TV: First round from 12:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday on the Golf Channel and from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday on NBC; Second round from 12:30 to 6 p.m. Friday on the Golf Channel and from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday on NBC; Third round from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday on NBC; Final round from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday on the Golf Channel and from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday on NBC